October: nature’s reminder to love and devour pumpkin

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

The fall colours have been spectacular this year. I am told that the brightest autumn colours occur when dry sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights. We have, indeed, enjoyed wonderful weather this fall. Right up until this week it has been sunny and dry; perfect weather for long walks on Mount Royal and for wandering around Montreal’s markets admiring the bounty of this year’s harvest which included, amazingly enough, beef steak field tomatoes right up until Thanksgiving. Unheard of.

Now, approaching the end of October, the later fall offerings reflect the cooler nights. The hardy carrots, onions and cabbages are still around, joined by sweet potatoes, all manner of  squash and, of course, pumpkins.

blog pumpkins danielle levy nutrition comPumpkins at Montreal’s Marché Jean Talon (source: daniellelevynutition.com)

Pumpkins are everywhere; this is their month. For many of us, it’s the only time that pumpkins cross our paths. The only pumpkin we eat is in a pie at Thanksgiving and the only pumpkin we buy is to carve, once a year, on Halloween.

That level of neglect does not give pumpkin its due.

The pumpkin is more than simply a decorative gourd; it’s a nutritional superstar. It’s packed with nutrients including potassium, magnesium and vitamins C and E along with the disease-fighting cartenoids alpha- and beta-carotene. And it’s high in fibre to boot.

You’ll find similar properties in carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and orange bell peppers.

You’ll also find a nutritional punch in pumpkin seeds, which are rich in vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc and a great plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids.

So while you admire the beauty of the fall markets, think about how to incorporate pumpkin into your diet all year round. One of my favorite ways to use pumpkin throughout the year is in risotto. Here’s a recipe to get you started. Don’t worry, it’s not an exact science and you can play with the flavours, but I do love the addition of sage, which is something I always do — along with the pine nuts. Yum.

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A creamy pumpkin risotto (source: food nine msn)

You can make this dish with lovely fresh pumpkin — now — or with good quality canned pumpkin, which is available throughout the year. And, of course, you can always garnish it with pumpkin seeds. Seasoned and roasted they’re  crunchy, buttery and delicious.

Try this delicious recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds. Or, using recommended cooking times, season them with anything you like. For example, do something classic with olive oil and salt and pepper, or something a little spicier using pepper, chilli, smoked paprika or garam masalsa. Or go for barbeque flavour with brown sugar, chipotle and ground cumin, or something sweet, tossing the toasted seeds with cinnamon and sugar.

blog pumpkin roasted-pumpkin-seedsDelicious roasted pumpkin seeds (source: The girl who ate everything)

So this year, when you go out to purchase the perfect pumpkin for your Halloween jack-o-lantern, let it inspire you to think about all the ways that you can honour this powerhouse of a fruit  (yes, it’s a fruit, related to the melon — not a vegetable).

blog pumpkin danielle levy nutrition com 2Beautiful ripe pumpkins (Source: daniellelevynutrition.com)

And that brings me to the ubiquitous Halloween pumpkin that decorates the stoop for trick-or-treaters.

While we love the classic jack-o-lantern with the triangle eyes and the big toothy grin, we’ve pulled together a few different techniques to help inspire you when you execute your own creation, if you’re looking for something a little different.

When you remove the guts and prepare your pumpkin for carving, don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting.

1. Drilling

It has become quite popular in the last few years to forgo a knife and use power tools — notably a drill — to decorate pumpkins. If you’ve never used a drill to decorate your pumpkin before, here’s a great tutorial to get you started. It’ll help you create designs from something simple and graphic yet really effective like these three pumpkins that spell “BOO” to something a little more involved, complicated and artistic such as filigree patterns.

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The tutorial covers steps from cleaning and prepping the pumpkin to marking out the design and selecting the right size drill bits to achieve the desired effect. It includes some important tips, like be sure to make the holes large enough that the light radiates out and sufficient air circulates to keep the flame alive inside the pumpkin.

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2.  Templates

Another departure from a traditional carved pumpkin is to use a stencil to help create an elaborate design.  There are lots of stencils available for free on line, from the very tasteful, courtesy of Martha Stewart, to sites like Zombie Pumpkins, which has a huge selection of intricate zombie-related  and other classic Halloween-themed stencils.

blog pumpkin edgar allan poePumpkins made using templates that evoke the horror of Edgar Allan Poe (source: Martha Stewart)

Once you find a stencil that you like, tape it to the side of the pumpkin. Using a nail, or another transfer tool, start punching holes along the lines designed on the stencil. Punch deep enough through the pumpkin so when it’s time to saw, the lines will make it easier to cut through.  Once the whole design is punched out, cut out the pieces of the design using a small carving saw.

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Pennywise (source: Zombie Pumpkins)

3.  Free-hand art pieces

Some people are so talented that they can create true artistic masterpieces without the help of templates.  Maniac Pumpkin Carvers in Brooklyn is home to some of these talented folk. They’re real pros, carving more than 400 unique and elaborate pumpkins every Halloween.  In an interview with mental_floss, they shared some useful tips for beginners and experts alike, interested in creating unique and artistic pumpkins. For example, they propose cutting your hole in the back of the pumpkin to keep the stem in tact, rather than the top or the bottom, and they suggest using a wide range of tools from paring knives to lemon zesters, rasps, exacto knives and lino cutting tools.

pumpkin 3 mymodernmetVincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” by Brooklyn’s Maniac Pumpkin Carvers

4.   No-carve decorating

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can achieve some stunning effects without carving. There are several resources on line that will help inspire you to find original and beautiful decorating ideas that don’t involve cleaning and carving pumpkins.

They won’t work to light your porch for trick-or-treaters, but even the simplest designs can be visually stunning like these “heavy metal” pumpkins. They’re sophisticated and elegant, yet couldn’t be easier to produce. All you need is some metallic spray paint, a damp rag (to clean the pumpkin) and some newspaper to sit the pumpkins on. Make sure you work in a well ventilated space. Spray the pumpkins. Two coats work best. Then let them dry for at least 24 hours.

blog pumpkin metalHeavy metal pumpkins (Source: Real Simple)

You could also choose to something a little more design-oriented like these pumpkins designed with a washi tape plaid pattern.  I love washi tape. It’s available in so many patterns and colours, that decorating with it really offers endless possibilities.

blog pumpkin no carve Washi tape plaid pumpkins (source: Real Simple)

To create a plaid effect, use a dry erase marker to map out your design. Then mark it out with tape to the pumpkin’s surface. Try using longer strips because piecing together too many short strips will look sloppy. Begin at the stem and run your tape down the side of the pumpkin, erasing the markings as you adhere the strips to the surface. After the vertical stripes have been made, apply tape around the circumference of the pumpkin to complete your pattern.

However you decide to decorate your pumpkin, it will all be over on November 1. It seems like such a shame that the morning after Halloween when all your hard work gets tossed out with the garbage.

It appears as though lots of people feel that way, so in some cities, communities get together to showcase pumpkins from the neighbourhood in a Pumpkin Parade on November 1st. Have a look and see if there’s anything going on where you live.

In Montreal you can find Pumpkin Parades in Montreal West at Strathern Park and in Outremont at Pratt Park.

A Pumpkin Parade in Sorauren Park, Toronto

What’s your favourite way to get pumpkin into your diet throughout the year? How will you decorate your pumpkin this Halloween?

Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page or on Twitter @GalerieCO

Donna Wilson’s Aberdeenshire Tartan: Home Colours

It’s that time of year again…time to get out the wool and get cozy. We’ve just received an order from Scottish knitwear and textile designer Donna Wilson, including her whimsical fox scarf made from a newly created tartan pattern.

Earlier this year, Donna was asked to design an exclusive tartan for Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the area where she grew up. Her creation is fresh and  contemporary, yet grounded in the heritage and traditions of tartan as an iconic Scottish design.

DonaWilson_part379064Donna Wilson’s tartan fox available at Galerie CO (source: Donna Wilson)

When people think of the tartan, most think of the colourful pattern of the iconic cloth of the Scottish Highlands. It is a wool-woven cloth with a horizontal and vertical criss-cross design in multiple colours. Highland tartans are associated with specific clans, regions, districts and even families and institutions associated in some way with a Scottish heritage. In Canada, most provinces, territories and several counties and municipalities have an official tartan. So does the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Donna highland-dressA display of highland dress (source: Visit Scotland)

Originally, the word “tartan” described the way that the thread was woven to make the cloth: each thread passed over two threads then under two threads, and so on. The pattern is formed by woven bands of different coloured yarns crossing each other and forming intermediate shades. With six yarns this will produce a total of 21 different colours – the pure ones where the same colours cross each other and complementary half tones where each colour crosses another.

Donna tartan-loomA tartan loom in a Scottish mill (source: Visit Scotland)

The attributes of tartan are thus well-suited to the talents of a textile designer who understands design structure and can combine colours with artistic flair. Add to that someone who is fully aware of the important role that tartan plays as a quintessential and iconic symbol of Scotland, its national dress, and in the family histories of the Scottish people and their descendants around the world–and a perfect designer for tartan emerges.

So it make complete sense that Donna Wilson would be asked to design the exclusive tartan for her home county of Aberdeenshire.

Designing a tartan for Aberdeenshire is a huge honour, especially as a Scottish designer,” said Wilson. “Tartan is such an important part of our tradition and heritage, and we should never lose that. I hope to be able to make a difference to the manufacturers who will be weaving it and create something that will be a lasting symbol of Aberdeenshire.” (Uppercase Magazine)

The Aberdeenshire Council asked her to create a tartan fabric that celebrates the area’s craft heritage.

Donna 01291962Donna displaying the finished product (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)

Donna set about the task, first by collaborating with Aberdeenshire school children. She ran a series of workshops with local school children and asked them to identify colours that they felt best represented the area they lived in. She combined these suggestions with colours she drew directly from Aberdeenshire’s cultural heritage and natural surroundings to create the patterns in the material.

Donna Girl with PaintSome colourful submissions from the children of Aberdeenshire (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)

To be a true Aberdeenshire tartan, the design needed to have input from local people to find out what colours really represented the area and who better to do that than our young people? I loved working with them and I hope that being part of a process like this will inspire them to think about the possibilities of a career in the creative industries.” (Donna Wilson in The Scotland Herald)

You can see the process unfold here:

As a result of the workshops, the following seven colours were selected for the final design, a palette that reflected the natural beauty of the region:

Donna Aberdeenshire Tartan (2)Final colour choices to feature in the tartan (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)

Old Meldrum: A gold/copper inspired by the stills at the Glengarioch Distillery, and as one pupil pointed out—it’s also the colour of whisky!
Stonehaven: A pinky red seen in Aberdeenshire sunsets, and a colour often spotted at the infamous ‘Aunt Betty’s’ sweetshop in Stonehaven.
Aboyne: A frosty lichen green found in the Ladywood Forest.
Fraserburgh: A lilac/blue symbolizing the seas and skies around Fraserburgh.
Kintore: A forest green from all the woodlands around Kintore.
Harvest: A barley colour that reminded Donna of the farm where she grew up, and her favourite time of year.
Peterhead: A minty green from the seas and sea spray of Peterhead.

Donna aberdeen farmAn inspiration for “Harvest” (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)

The tartan is woven from 100 % lambs wool in a Scottish mill, which spins its own yarn directly from the fleeces and uses it to weave the textiles.

The tartan that emerged is a beautiful representation of the region. It is available to purchase by the metre from Donna Wilson. It’s also available in her whimsical fox-shaped scarf, which is available at Galerie CO.

Donna TartanDonna Wilson’s tartan design for Aberdeenshire (source: Donna Wilson)

What do you think of Donna’s new tartan? Leave us a comment below or let us know on Facebook or Twitter @GalerieCO

Vancouver’s Interior Design Show – IDS (West): some highlights

We’re still on the West coast with the blog!

Last weekend was the annual Canadian Interior Design Show (IDS) West in Vancouver. I’m lucky to have a great sister-in-law in Vancouver, Lynda Prince, who loves poking around design shows as much as I do and she volunteered to check it out and report back on items that she loved and that she thought reflected a “CO sensibility” and would be of interest to our readers.

I’m grateful to be able to visit the show through her eyes. Here’s her report:

IDS WestEach year, IDS West gets a little more grown up. Seven years ago, when we were in the middle of a frenzied renovation, my husband and I went to the IDS for inspiration. At the time, the show was fairly institutional. We saw the latest in dishwasher design and sleek Italian mosaic tiles; but there were only a few local designers and nothing that I hadn’t seen at the many tile and appliance stores that had become something of a second home during our year-long reno.

This year, IDS West had a much more exciting and unique vibe. Granted, there were still the gloriously manicured tiles and elegant appliances (like the Gaggenau micro 24 inch steamer wall ovens); but there was also a huge boom in custom and one-of-a-kind works.

alynda blog spotA sleek Gagganau wall oven (source: Gaggenau.com)

Mirroring the expansion of a more customized product, were a series of talks given by international designers and architects on the new meaning of luxury. To paraphrase, today’s client is sophisticated about design and is taking a more responsible role in decision making. Trends are towards more bespoke work. Luxury in this new view is defined as quality that integrates responsible design and often sustainable practices.

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Installation of wooden swings (source: Lynda Prince)

Designers producing custom pieces were presented in pockets throughout the show. To this end, the fabulous lighting collection Spheres, designed by Matthew McCormick Design Inc., in collaboration with Marie Khouri, was extraordinary. Their limited edition run of bronze and pewter sculpted lights led me into a moment’s fantasy of my completely reworked living room showcasing these stunning lights.

ids west lyndaLimited edition lighting collection Spheres (source: Lynda Prince)

An area where one-of-a-kind and limited edition were part of the standard language was in one of my favourite sections of the show: Studio North. I couldn’t help but notice the predominance of black walnut pieces—apparently sustainably harvested—that littered this section; all interesting and uber mid-century inspired. Highlights came first at Vancouver’s Gamla, a design group showcasing sleek pieces including their S2 Dining Chair a, here it is, sustainably sourced black walnut modernist chair. This summer, it was selected as a feature chair in the London Chancery Project, which means that an order of these chairs will soon be housed in the newly expanded Canadian High Commission in London, England.
GAMLA_S2 Dining Chair_Walnut-16                                                   The S2 Dining Chair (source: Gamla)

Another Studio North highlight was The Brooklyn Exchange, curated by Port and Quarter (a design group out of Vancouver) and composed of a consortium of independent Brooklyn-based designers. My eye fell on the M Lamp, by David Irwin of Juniper Designs. The LED light is operated by a rechargeable battery (it can be recharged up to 2000 times with no degradation). With a dimmer and a simple and elegant look (available in bold orange, sleek white and black), it’s a modern take on a 19th century industrial miner’s lamp.

image_1_147The M Lamp (source: Dave Irwin)

Irwin was also showing his Cross Side Chair, a sleek and stackable chair made from FSC-certified wood (guess, black walnut). The cushions are upholstered in renewable and compostable fabrics ranging from new wool to hemp blends. The interior of the cushion is made from 100 percent natural latex coming from rubber trees.

crosschair_lThe Cross Side Chair (source: Dave Irwin)

One of my favourite products at IDS was something that costs under $50 (it’s even cheaper if you have a 3d printer). It’s called CLUG and is the world’s smallest bike rack. It’s a simple wall-mount clip that fits in a 2″x2″ space.

CLUGCLUGs (source: Kickstarter)

CLUG was designed by the trio at Vancouver’s Hurdler Studios, an industrial design studio and crowdfunded by Kickstarter.

Clug-Bike-ClipThe CLUG in use (source: gearhungry.com)

Another fun area at IDS West was The District; less interior design and more a sneak peak at one-of-a-kind merchandise. Booth hopping was a kick…admiring wares like heyday design’s milk jugs, hand-spun wool knit blankets from Natural Wool Knits, dock kits made out of Canadian Mint money bags and Joe Carver’s awesome wood sculpture of a bull’s head.

DSC05048Joe Carver’s wooden sculpture (source: Lynda Prince)

Finally on a more macro level, there was a large area showcasing local designers. Ten booths had been transformed by ten different designers each creating a spectacular dining scene. These extraordinary dining environments—from the lavish and romantic to the outrageous and whimsical—were wonderful.

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Three of the showcased dining room scenes (source: Lynda Prince)

This is what the show should be doing more of (albeit an ‘Ikeaesque’ merchandising approach), showcasing designers doing their thing often using local materials. I spent much of the show in this crowded area picking up on design trends, loving the variety of ideas from a deep talent pool of designers, and getting names for our next reno project!

Thank you, Lynda, for sharing a slice of IDS(West)!

Which item do you think would fit in best at Galerie CO? Tell us in the comments below, or on our Facebook page, or on Instagram or Twitter @GalerieCO